Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

I found out about this experiment from the video presentation “Steven Pinker: The Elephant, the Emperor, and the Matzo Ball”,

Steven Pinker asks:

“Why are bribes, requests, seductions, solicitations, and threats so often veiled when both parties know what they mean?”

The article starts….”You want to go to the hottest restaurant in town. You have no reservation.”

Bruce Feiler has a plan for you.

Source: Pocketful of Dough – Tips on Tipping: 2000s Archive :

When I talk to other scientists about the study of consciousness, very often the first thing I’m asked to explain is why the topic is worth scientific attention. I argue that it’s not just a topic for philosophers or poets, and it’s not just a matter of opinion or belief. We can actually build rational theories of consciousness, theories that have explanatory power and that can be tested experimentally. And it’s crucial knowledge. Consciousness has a specific, practical impact on brain function. If you want to understand how the brain works, you need to understand that part of the machine. No neuroscientist, and no expert in artificial intelligence, should scoff at consciousness.” (excerpt)

They play to our intuitions, but don’t actually explain anything.

Source: Most Theories of Consciousness Are Worse Than Wrong – The Atlantic

“Few books risk such damage to the public understanding of science as those by Oliver James. Inexplicably popular despite their scientific illiteracy and mediocre writing, they are promoted widely by James’s regular, shriekingly aggressive media appearances. A glance at the studies shows the absurdity of the extreme blank-slate position advanced in Not In Your Genes: environments clearly matter, but so does DNA, and the perversity of denying this becomes ever more acute with each new genetic discovery. Truly understanding human psychology and helping those with psychiatric illnesses requires us to have a realistic view of the causes of differences between people. That realistic view is Not In This Book.”  (excerpt)

Source: On genetics Oliver James is on a different planet to the rest of us | Spectator Health

Learn about the nation’s first uterine transplantation performed at Cleveland Clinic on Feb. 24, 2016. It was the first in a pioneering clinical trial.

Source: Uterus Transplant: Procedure & Information | Cleveland Clinic

“I’ve been getting lots of tweets and email from folks linking to a slick-looking video, a computer animation showing the motion of the planets around the Sun as the Sun orbits around the Milky Way Galaxy. It’s a very pretty video with compelling music and well-done graphics.

“It’s wrong. And not just superficially; it’s deeply wrong, based on a very wrong premise. While there are some useful visualizations in it, I caution people to take it with a galaxy-sized grain of salt.”

Have you ever noticed that some people are a lot pickier about the food they eat than other people are? They might be more selective because they are supertasters! To supertasters, the flavors of foods are much stronger than to average tasters. Whether or not someone is a supertaster comes down to the taste buds on his or her tongue, and you can actually investigate a person’s supertaster status by looking at this. Are you a supertaster? Find out with this tongue-based activity!

It is startling how many pseudosciences exist today. In almost every major discipline, there are pseudoscientific beliefs. I wish I could say that I completely reject hypnosis as a pseudoscience, but I am still on the fence. In one article exploring the validity of its research, a professor asserts: “It has taken centuries for medical hypnosis to regain credibility,” says Penn State psychology professor William Ray. “In the 1950s, reliable measures of hypnotizability were developed, which allowed this research field to gain validity. We’ve seen more than 12,000 articles on hypnosis published since then in medical and psychological journals. Today, there’s general agreement that hypnosis can be an important part of treatment for some conditions, including phobias, addictions and chronic pain.” Even a contributor to the attached article in the same passage contradicts the pseudoscience attribution by saying:

  • It should be noted that using hypnosis for relaxation, mood control, and other related benefits (often related to meditation) is regarded as part of standard medical treatment rather than alternative medicine, particularly for patients subjected to difficult physical emotional stress in chemotherapy.[80]

The American Psychological Association has numerous references to hypnosis and appears to support hypnosis as real. Included on the website: Handbook of Clinical Hypnosis, Second Edition

In this second edition of the landmark Handbook of Clinical Hypnosis, the editors have undertaken a significant revision and update to their classic text, first published over ten years ago.

Book/Monograph (February 2010).

Here, it is stated that there are some valid studies supporting appropriate clinical uses of hypnosis. The author/contributor to the Wikipedia article seems to acknowledge the distinction of hypnosis being supported by valid scientific studies when used clinically for some uses (use of reducing pain, relaxation, focus) as being distinct from the other uses of hypnosis to retrieve “repressed memories” and “past lives” and some others. This distinction is described more explicitly by including even more pseudoscientific claims, stating that “Despite increasing recognition by the medical establishment, popular myths about hypnosis persist, such as the belief that it is a truth serum, that it causes subjects to lose all free will, and that hypnotists can erase their clients’ memories of their sessions.”

However, despite a list of prestigious universities, like Stanford University and Penn State, that support the validity of hypnosis as a valid tool, other skeptical reviewers of scientific research supports the questionable validity of hypnosis research.

In the Skeptic’s Dictionary, an author writes: “While it is true that some hypnotherapists can help some people lose weight, quit smoking, or overcome their fear of flying, it is also true that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can do the same without any mumbo-jumbo about trance states or brain waves. There have been many scientific studies on the effectiveness of CBT, including studies on weight loss. Finding high quality scientific evidence for hypnotherapy, however, poses a major problem. As R. Barker Bausell says: hypnosis and the placebo effect are “so heavily reliant upon the effects of suggestion and belief that it would be hard to imagine how a credible placebo control could ever be devised for a hypnotism study” (2007: 268). Even if you could devise a hypnosis study that isolated the role of suggestion and belief, how would you do “fake” hypnosis?”

The author does provide some support for the validity of hypnosis by looking at specific correlations: “Scientific studies have found out a few things about hypnosis. We know that there is a significant correlation between being able to be absorbed in imaginative activity and being responsive to hypnosis.* We know that those who are fantasy-prone are also likely to make excellent hypnotic subjects. We know that vivid imagery enhances suggestibility. We know that those who think hypnosis is rubbish can’t be hypnotized. We know that hypnotic subjects are not turned into zombies and are not controlled by their hypnotists. We know that hypnosis does not enhance the accuracy of memory in any special way. We know that a person under hypnosis is very suggestible and that memory is easily “filled-in” by the imagination and by suggestions made under hypnosis. We know that confabulation is quite common while under hypnosis and that many states do not allow testimony that has been induced by hypnosis because it is intrinsically unreliable. We know the greatest predictor of hypnotic responsiveness is what a person believes about hypnosis.”

So, as of yet, it is clear that hypnosis continues to be controversial. It doesn’t help that prestigious universities are connected with research supporting the validity of hypnosis and measures of hypnotic suggestibility, but the writer in the Skeptic’s Dictionary makes a powerful point:

“To those who say “what difference does it make why something works, as long as it works” I reply that it is likely that there is something that works even better and might even be cheaper or more effective. While many hypnotherapists may be generally reliable, help many clients with some of life’s minor problems, and are unlikely to take on cases beyond their expertise, many are going to be quacks. Depending on where they are practicing, their education and training might be minimal and dangerous. People with serious physical or mental issues might seek out one of these quacks for a serious disorder that could be relieved or cured by scientific medicine or therapy. Furthermore:

“Patients can become dependent on nonscientific practitioners who employ placebo therapies. Such patients may be led to believe they’re suffering from imagined “reactive” hypoglycemia, nonexistent allergies and yeast infections, dental filling amalgam “toxicity,” or that they’re under the power of qi or extraterrestrials. (The Mysterious Placebo by John E. Dodes, Skeptical Inquirer, Jan/Feb 1997).”

“In other words, placebo therapies can be an open door to quackery.”

Further research into this is needed.

via List of topics characterized as pseudoscience – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

“It’s not that surprising, given that mitochondria are historically bacteria that evolved within our cells,” says Mouchiroud. “A lot of attention has been paid to the role of antibiotics on our intestinal flora, which has ten times more cells than the rest of our bodies. However, the effects of antibiotics on our mitochondria, which themselves far outnumber the bacteria in our gut, haven’t yet been studied in detail.”

via Antibiotics found to have unexpected effects on mitochondria.

I recognize that this could politicized, and that’s not my intention for sharing this. Educators, after all, work best when they approach educating with an open mind (or open mindset) and flexibility. This is a reason education is both an art and a science. On the other hand, we should be careful about being “early adopters”. We should explore new ideas and tools, but we should approach these explorations with awareness and with special attention to measuring (somewhat objectively) what we hope to achieve against what was actually achieved (somewhat objectively).


The Neurocritic: Against Initiatives: “don’t be taken in by the boondoggle”.


Here’s Professor Leah Krubitzer, who heads theLaboratory of Evolutionary Biology at University of California, Davis:

“From a personal rather than scientific standpoint, the final important thing I’ve learned is don’t be taken in by the boondoggle, don’t get caught up in technology, and be very suspicious of “initiatives.” Science should be driven by questions that are generated by inquiry and in-depth analysis rather than top-down initiatives that dictate scientific directions. I have also learned to be suspicious of labels declaring this the “decade of” anything: The brain, The mind, Consciousness. There should be no time limit on discovery. Does anyone really believe we will solve these complex, nonlinear phenomena in ten years or even one hundred? Tightly bound temporal mandates can undermine the important, incremental, and seemingly small discoveries scientists make every day doing critical, basic, nonmandated research. These basic scientific discoveries have always been the foundation for clinical translation. By all means funding big questions and developing innovative techniques is worthwhile, but scientists and the science should dictate the process.”